Since pop music is so crap, I've been listening to more and more "demoscene" tracks and derivatives lately. It's so much better than anything you'll find in the shops!
Nectarine is a streaming MP3 radio station dedicated to scene music. No adverts and no commercial trash. Marvellous! Some songs aren't that great since they're written to go with a demo, but there are nuggets of pure lo-fi melody hidden away there. Stuff written by kids in their bedrooms in the 80s. Stuff written purely for the listener. Stuff that's actually original!
One dimensional and loving it
Once you acknowledge the talent required to make constrained art, you can't help but start to like it. The SID chip found in the C64 is about the most constrained music writing environment there is, so the SID artists had and have no choice but to pack their songs with baroque creativity. Look at D'you know what I mean? by Oasis. Third album, height of their power. They had unlimited resources, and they used them all. Result: one of the silliest most overproduced tracks ever, tarnishing an otherwise good song. SIDs (and to a lesser degree mods) are the precise opposite: if Bach respawned today, he'd be a chiptune DJ.
(As it happens, I find the SID sounds a bit harsh and grating, so I prefer remixes of old songs with modern samples)
So what does it sound like? Here's what I'm liking right now, in no particular order:
- beek - substitutionology (so much my favourite at one point that I overlistened to it and got sick of it)
- mitch and dane - gloria (wish somebody would remix this)
- quazar - funky stars (minimal construction, maximal tune)
- kb - candytron (there has yet to be a bad thing ending in "tron")
- Desert Planet - Asteroid Hopper (gets better each time)
- elwood - deadlock, fall from sky, feats of valor, into the shadow, sick on monday, sweet dreams
This guy was doing dance music before there was dance music.
- elwood - past and present (best of his dancey stuff)
- elwood - beyond the rainbow, i can seek, stompin little scouts (everybody likes this one), and waverider are also good.
- Yip (arr. LMan) - Scroll Machine (5th dream about happiness)
- SID original is unremarkable, LMan's remix is awesome.
- Machinae Supremacy
The only "real" band on this list. Swedish heavy metal band with SID special effects. Like listening to Iron Maiden and playing a sympathetic C64 at the same time, i.e. great sound, silly lyrics. Best songs:
- Bouff (10/10 without the voice, 6/10 with it)
- Great Giana Sisters (the famous/best one)
- Sidology Episodes 1 and 3 (there is no 2!)
- Instant Remedy - Last Ninja, Comic Bakery, Lazy Jones. Ocean Loader is OK. All are europoppy dance remixes of C64 tunes.
- karsten obarski - Amegas
- necros - Dreaming in Green (also did "Mechanism 8" from Unreal Tournament)
- linus walleij - SIDamp theme (also "warez the phuture" is amusing)
- anybody - fairlight (classic song; 4 trillion remixes; all good)
- jeroen tel - the traveller
- jugi - onward ride
- Reed/Fairlight - Cyberdragon (harsh blip blop!)
- firestorm/doomsday - hope stays (epic cheese; fun)
- paso - lost scrotum (10/10 song, 0/10 name; what were you thinking, paso?)
- lizardking - ogle V, doskpop project, fellowship
- jeroen tel - mountain breeze
- jeroen tel - deadline
- captain - space debris
- captain - beyond music
- captain - mickus
- dizzy - banana split (ignore the stupid Axel F ripoff intro; otherwise nice)
- ghidorah - Toilet Story 1-6 is quite good, but has a bizarre title and puerile instrument names.
- stamen - so much left to say
- maktone - class cracktro #9
- jester - chipmunks (short, blip blop greatness)
- area 51 - stepfather (would be a lot better as a proper guitars+drums rock song)
- 4-mat - waterfall
- 4-mat - dna dream
- monty - something enchanted
- 4-mat - red sector theme (original is OK, Cirdan remix is better)
- tip and firefox - enigma
- unknown - the last hope
- jeroen tel - 1999 (that's 1999 bytes; marvellous constrained art)
Also, I have a half-broken OctaMED file called "Funky Fifth" apparently by Dave Sullivan. I think it's from an Amiga Format or CU Amiga coverdisk but it's nowhere on the internet. Somebody out there: help me find info about this song!
Humans: shut up, Machines: speak up
All these are good songs, but beware vocal remixes. Horrible inanity. To be shunned the same way as vocal Eurodance and candy rave should be.
Childishness is the biggest problem this kind of music faces. It's terminally associated with old games for young people and over-bouncy melodies. Demoscence people: your audience is no longer 8 years old! We're 15 now!